I am...a New Yorker

[Previous entry: "Enamorado con Nueva York"]

Thursday, February 20, 2003
Remembering the Songs


At the Cozy Soup 'n Burger.

The big, wool coat -- it's a menace. And insufficient snow boots that seemed like overkill, up to now.

Old soul at Crazy Nanny's, but not with the mike at the karaoke machine.

Knowing all the words to most of the songs.

It goes with the drinking.

Grown people hopping over gray, slushy ponds at every corner.

The straight couple practically humping in the corner.

Them, perhaps so I'll believe it myself.

I'm in the wrong writing class.

That he's worrying about me. Such is this intricate web of humanity.

About the physical and emotional perils of fucking men, while waiting for the bus on Greenwich and Sixth Avenue.

I am...tripping through the windmills of my mind, courtesy of pop music.

"Living For the City," Stevie Wonder
Aussie Antony, a strapping young lad I met on my first trip to New Orleans.
On his last night we were going to head to the Quarter, to shower a girl together at Big Daddy's. Instead, when he found me eating dinner outside Igor's Garlic Clove with the two kiwi girls, we went back to his room and talked about Stevie Wonder. It was a much better way to spend the evening.

He told me about his favorite Stevie Wonder song and though I'd listened endlessly to At the Close of the Century, I wasn't familiar with it. He said I had to hear it when I got home to my CDs. I didn't have to wait that long. I heard it the next morning, moping and missing him, the moment I stepped into an overpriced souveneir shop with the kiwis.

That last night, we talked about starting our own record company, based on actual music, rather than bare midriffs, boob jobs and layered vocals. He had money, I suppose. Said he noticed me eyeing him suspiciously, side by side at the internet terminals, me updating my journal and he checking his stocks. It's true, I'd thought, "who's this motherfucker?"

But then Cindy Fu and I took turns throwing up in the bathroom of our hot, communal room and so became fast friends. Antony was around the fringes of the crowd, but with his olive skin and quiet demeanor, I thought perhaps he didn't speak much English. But he did and so we wound up on the fringes, to ourselves, and I forgot the group entirely.

The night before, we'd played songs for each other on the jukebox at Coop's Place, having discovered Decatur Street was cooler than Bourbon. We had overlapping tastes, but introduced one another to other artists. I contrasted Aretha Franklin and Al Green with Hank Williams, Sr. and Patsy Cline.

I was on a greyhound trek midway between NYC and California, while he was wrapping up 12 months circumnavigating the globe. We didn't manage to meet up in San Francisco, as planned. Wish we had, wish I'd kissed him. Isn't it funny that I was too shy for that, but we washed our clothes together over lunch at Igor's, pulled our underwear and socks apart while we talked and talked.

I wonder if he remembers me, three years later. I had fun with various members of that crowd, but I felt right with Antony. Like I could be myself. I'm odd that way. I've dated guys for months who I had nothing in common with, barely spoke with, and remember more about someone I met for a few days three years ago.

"Hey Jealousy," Gin Blossoms
Eric, of course...all over Southern California. I still think of him when I travel on the 10 freeway.
We never even listened to this song together, it came out while I was at Cal State Disneyland and so lonely among the Republicans and racists (I know, same difference). It's how I felt.

I missed him, but he didn't feel the same. He enjoyed me when I was around, but I wasn't a part of his life. I knew there was substance, but it scared him somehow. Time would tell and 5 years later, when he visited me in San Francisco, I learned I'd outgrown him. But back in '92-94, he was the only one, still the closest I ever came. Fat, biracial girls don't get a lot of play anywhere, but certainly not in Orange County where the freakiest thing my classmates could conceive of was a Democrat, for Chrissakes.

There are others, of course. Anything by Tonya Donnelly or Natalie Merchant. I still hate Smashing Pumpkins ("Smooshing Squashes") because of the Eric association. The irony is he married a Jewish girl from Queens.

I know there were some good times and liberals mixed in there, but mostly it seems my worst mistake.

"Me and Bobby McGee," Janis Joplin
No guy connection, thank goddess. I remember singing it on the Staten Island Ferry on the way home from work those first few months in New York. At twilight on those long, summer nights, the water shimmered, as if New York harbor was filled with Spanish doubloons.

"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," The Ronettes/Carol King
I didn't realize I knew all the words to this song until I sang it to myself as I walked across 42nd Street, past Bryant Park, around the corner to the main NYPL branch library and down a couple of blocks to the Mid-Manhattan library. Stranger still, much later I learned I wasn't singing a bad rendition of the Ronettes, but was singing it just like Carol King.

Like any other drug, those first few months in New York were probably the best. I've been strung out ever since.

"Fortress Around Your Heart," Sting
I heard this last night while searching for a milk crate at the K-Mart in the Village, the lyrics struck me.

We walked through its streets in the afternoon
As I returned across the fields I'd known
I recognized the walls that I once laid
I had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines I'd laid

And if I have built this fortress around your heart
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
Then let me build a bridge for I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire [more]

It seems too sophisticated to have meant much to me when I received Dream of the Blue Turtles for my 14th birthday.

August 28, 1985

On reflecting on that photo, I wonder if it was the first time in my life that I was the second choice, the replacement. My best friends Kristi and Alex were dating then; a few months later, she dumped us both and we found comfort in each other for a short time and then that relationship was spoiled as well. The classic therapist line is that women "choose" men who aren't available to them. But they sure seem available when they're staring into my eyes, talking to me in the voice and smiling.

"Truly, Madly, Deeply," "I Want You," Savage Garden
David from Seattle was about the nicest guy I ever knew, let alone dated. Too nice. So nice that he was even more naive than I about how harsh the world can be. In time, that cluelessness became an irritant. I came to realize that he'd had a pretty easy life. Thus, no matter how hard he tried, he would come to understand neither my pain and suffering, nor the resulting need to take risks, explore, expand my horizons, and create beauty in the midst of chaos.

Just as the blind tend to be hyperacute in their other senses, so too are some of us born and molded to see and feel things that others might not see and feel, or, more likely, might not want to.

[Next entry: "Unclear"]
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